A report from the Reporters Without Borders
"Three of the government bodies designated by Reporters Without Borders as Enemies of the Internet are located in democracies that have traditionally claimed to respect fundamental freedoms: the Centre for Development of Telematics in India, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the United Kingdom, and the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States."
"The NSA and GCHQ have spied on the communications of millions of citizens including many journalists. They have knowingly introduced security flaws into devices and software used to transmit requests on the Internet. And they have hacked into the very heart of the Internet using programmes such as the NSA’s Quantam Insert and GCHQ’s Tempora."
"The 2014 list of Enemies of the Internet includes 'surveillance dealerships' – the three arms trade fairs known as ISS World, Technology Against Crime and Milipol. These forums bring companies specializing in communications interception or online content blocking together with government officials from countries such as Iran, China and Bahrain."
"The censorship and surveillance carried out by the Enemies of the Internet would not be possible without the tools developed by the private sector companies to be found at these trade fairs. Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency has tracked down journalists in the United States thanks to spyware provided by Hacking Team, an Italian company that Reporters Without Borders designated as an Enemy of the Internet in 2013. Even the NSA has used the services of Vupen, a French company that specializes in identifying and exploiting security flaws."
"Private-sector companies are not the only suppliers of surveillance technology to governments that are Enemies of the Internet. Russia has exported its SORM surveillance system to its close neighbours. In Belarus, Decree No. 60 on 'measures for improving use of the national Internet network' forces Internet Service Providers to install SORM"
"China has begun assisting Iran’s uphill efforts to create a Halal Internet – a national Internet that would be disconnected from the World Wide Web and under the government’s complete control."
"The NSA and GCHQ, Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency, Saudi Arabia’s Internet Services Unit, Belarus’ Operations and Analysis Centre, Russia’s FSB and Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service are all security agencies that have gone far beyond their core duties by censoring or spying on journalists and other information providers."
"Ignoring the objections of many human rights groups, France’s parliament cavalierly adopted a Military Programming Law in December 2013 that allows the authorities to spy on phone and Internet communications in real time without asking a judge for permission. The grounds given are vague and general, ranging from the need for 'intelligence affecting national security' and 'safeguarding the essential elements of France’s economic potential' to 'preventing terrorism, criminality and organized crime.'”
"In Tunisia, the government gazette announced the creation of a Technical Agency for Telecommunications (ATT) on 12 November 2013 for the purpose of monitoring communications in order to assist judicial investigations into 'information and communication crimes.' Its sudden creation by decree without any consultation with civil society triggered immediate concern, as it revived memories of the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI), the symbol of online censorship under ousted President Zine el-Abine Ben Ali. The lack of any safeguards and mechanism for controlling its activities is particularly alarming."
"In Syria and Iran, Internet speed is often reduced drastically during demonstrations to prevent the circulation of images of the protests."
"In China, the authorities disconnected the Internet for several hours on 22 January 2014 to stop the circulation of reports about the use of offshore tax havens by members of the Chinese elite."
"In Sudan, the authorities disconnected the Internet throughout the country for 24 hours on 25 September 2013 to prevent social networks being used to organize protests."
"Internet Service Providers, website hosting companies and other technical intermediaries find themselves being asked with increasing frequency to act as Internet cops."
"In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has forced ISPs to filter content of a sensitive nature. The authorities ordered them to block about 50 websites covering exchange rates and soaring inflation on the grounds that they were fuelling an 'economic war' against Venezuela. This did not prevent a wave of protests against shortages and the high crime rate. On 24 February, when many photos of the protests were circulating on Twitter, the authorities ordered ISPs to block all images on Twitter."
"In Turkey, the latest amendments to Law 5651 on the Internet, voted on 5 February 2014, turn ISPs into instruments of censorship and surveillance, forcing them to join a new organization that centralizes requests for content blocking or removal. If they do not join and install the surveillance tools demanded by the authorities, they will lose their licence."
“In Gambia, the government gave itself a new legislative weapon in July 2013 by getting the national assembly to pass amendments to the Information and Communications Act – the main law limiting freedom of information. The amendments make the 'spreading of false news against the government or public officials' punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a fine of 3 million dalasis (64,000 euros).”
"The creation of a licencing system for news websites serves as an administrative and sometimes economic barrier and is a widely-used method for controlling online information."
“In Singapore, the authorities have created a major economic barrier for online news media. Under a measure that took effect in June 2013, news websites that post more than one article a week about Singapore and have more than 50,000 Singaporean visitors a month need a licence that requires depositing 'a performance bond' of 50,000 Singaporean dollars (39,500 US dollars). The licence has to be renewed every one year.”
“The latest and perhaps most outrageous practice to come to light so far is GCHQ’s 'Optic Nerve' programme, used to capture the personal images of millions of Yahoo webcam users. It suggests that there are no limits to what the intelligence agencies are ready to do.”